Statement of Sherrilyn Ifill President & Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. on the Court’s Decisions in United States v. Windsor and Hollingsworth v. Perry

(Washington, D.C.) Today, the U.S. Supreme Court took a step forward in ensuring equality for gay and lesbian Americans by striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) because it deprives gays and lesbians who are legally married under state law of the liberty and equality protected by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.  The Court also let stand a federal district court ruling that California’s state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, known as Proposition 8, is unconstitutional.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the DOMA case, United States v. Windsor.  We also joined a coalition of civil rights groups that submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the Proposition 8 case, Hollingsworth v. Perry

We applaud today’s rulings. Yet, we also recognize that the vision for full equality in America is far from realized. Just yesterday, the Court struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act and took away the most powerful tool our nation has to defend minority voting rights.  We stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who are continuing the fight to end discrimination and ensure equal rights for all Americans.

While the nature of discrimination against gays and lesbians differs fundamentally from discrimination based on race, laws that purposefully infringe on the rights of gay people are analogous to the racial caste system of “separate but equal” that the Court has played a key role in dismantling.  Like laws that were designed to oppress African Americans because of race, DOMA and Proposition 8 relegate gays and lesbians to an unequal and inferior status as a group. 

LDF has long held the view that the principles set forth by the Supreme Court in a 1967 case called Loving v. Virginia establish the fundamental right of every individual, including gays and lesbians, to marry the person of his or her choice.  In Loving, the Supreme Court held that laws prohibiting interracial marriage are unconstitutional.